In the 2015 film Spectre, the legendary James Bond fights a villain as both hang outside a helicopter in flight, balanced on the landing skid. Bond is calm, and stylish, as he dispatches the bad guy, then the pilot, and flies away toward his next glory moment. Think of Peter Massini as the James Bond of high-flying art photographers. His weapon isn’t a SIG-Sauer handgun but a camera, and his mission isn’t to foil an evil plot but to capture a subject—in an image that presents a perspective and sense of wonder like none other.
And like the movie hero, Massini’s proficiency and attention to detail are only heightened by a situation that would rattle others, when he is “forced from the common comfort of terra firma,” as he says on the website for Big City Aerial Photography, based in New York City.
“Peter’s adventurous spirit finds him hanging from the open door of a helicopter on almost a daily basis, persistent in his quest for the best possible shot on each and every assignment,” the site says. “This persistence and tenacity are vividly evident in the stunning work he produces for clients, as well as in his dazzling, large-format iconography of [New York City], which he has placed in private and corporate settings worldwide.” Massini will be exhibiting his fine art photography in an exhibit entitled Altitude, running from January 6 through February 26, 2017, at The Lionheart Gallery in Pound Ridge, N.Y. An opening reception is scheduled for January 7, from 5 to 8 p.m., with a snow date of January 8.
The exhibit will consist of acrylic-faced prints and include cityscapes and images of infrastructure, along with a focus on geometric and pattern work—photos that seem to turn the visual into a new sensory language, rich in narrative, mystery, abstraction, and a sense of order.
“I think we use patterns to provide some sort of order in a world of disorder,” Massini says. “I believe a lot of art, music, science and math is an arrangement of patterns made to help us with our need for organization, amusement, and the need to learn.” Massini’s first art photography show, The Lionheart Gallery exhibit provides a platform for the non-commercial projects the photographer has been working on in the last few years during personal flights, rather than voyages commissioned by a commercial client.
How did it all start? “I was a location photographer doing a lot of corporate work a number of years back and was asked by an industrial client if I had ever shot from a helicopter before,” Massini recalls. He hadn’t, but Massini was game. “The company had a helicopter flying in the CEO and I spoke with the pilot for a bit, learned how to strap in, and we took the door off and away we went,” he says. “We were following and shooting a tugboat and barge of recycled paper motoring down the Hudson River across New York Harbor to a paper plant on Staten Island. I loved it and always have sought it out since, now it is 95 percent of what I do.”
One of Massini’s favorite recent shoots was for Adidas, via an ad agency out of Portland, Oregon. “I shot aerials at various sporting locations around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens from a helicopter at high altitude—straight down on spots such as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the start of the New York City Marathon, the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center and various sporting fields,” the photographer said. The shots will be in black-and-white and will grace the walls of the new Adidas flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.”
Beginning January 6, Massini’s photographs will also grace the walls of The Lionheart Gallery. “I am curious if others will find the patterns or the cityscapes more artistic, and although I think the cityscapes contain the same sense of mystery I am hoping the geometric patterns are found most creative,” he says.